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May 25, 2007

Zimbawean sugarcane estates contract out-growers

Zimbabwe's two major sugarcane growers, Hippo Valley Estates and Triangle Limited, have formed a joint venture company, Triangle Sugar Corporation, as they strive to increase cane production among new farmers.

Hippo Valley chief executive Sydney Mtsambiwa said, "We have set up the company to provide extension services to the more than 650 small-scale farmers involved in cane production." He said the farmers were providing at least 30 percent of the throughput and there was need for them to be assisted to adopt best practices to achieve optimal productivity.

"The need to train the farmers also arose out of the realisation that production had declined in the sector, with sources saying a hectare that previously produced at least 100 tonnes of cane was now producing an average of 50 to 60 tonnes," Mtsambiwa said. "We need to ensure that our farmers are adequately trained," he said, adding the turnaround to achieve maximum output was expected in a minimum of three years.

Overall, cane production slumped in 2006 from the anticipated 490,000 tonnes to 446,000 tonnes. While lack of expertise among the new farmers remained a constraint, the farmers were also facing shortages of critical inputs such as fertilizers and fuel, which curtailed production and has led to sugar shortages in the past few years.

The sector has since called for the classification of sugar as a strategic crop, a move that will unlock funding from the State, as is the case with tobacco and maize.


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